How to Segment Subscribers in ConvertKit

ConvertKit follows a very different model from most basic email marketing providers (like MailChimp, AWeber, and GetResponse). Instead of being list-centric where the same person on three different lists is counted as three different people, ConvertKit is subscriber-centric. That means each subscriber appears once in your account and just has additional information on added to their profile.

Matt Ragland from our Customer Success team explained it well with this sketchnote.

Reasons this is awesome:

  1. Smarter segmenting.
  2. Don't get charged for duplicate subscribers.
  3. Better tracking of customers and subscriber activity.

The subscriber-centric model is 10x as powerful as other systems, but takes a couple more minutes up front to understand how it works and get the most out of it.

Here's a quick video where Matt explains how to use forms, tags and segments effectively!

Taking 5 minutes to understand the segmentation in ConvertKit will get you 10x the power of other platforms.

With that in mind, let's jump in.

1. All subscribers should come in through forms

It can be confusing to know where your subscribers should go inside of ConvertKit, so we'll make it easy. Unless you have a really good reason, everyone should go into a form first. It's easy to create lots of forms and each subscriber is tied back to the form they opted into.

Tip: Forms—in addition to everything else they do—also have the same functionality as tags. So if you have a "newsletter" form then you don't also need to add a tag to those subscribers of "newsletter". You know where they came from. Just use segments to group together multiple forms.

2. Connect your form to a sequence

No one will get your sequence by default unless you subscribe them to the sequence. Which is good—it would suck to have all your subscribers start getting your sequence without you expecting it!

So you need to connect your forms to your sequence. The best way to do that is through the form settings page where you can select a sequence. You can connect an unlimited number of forms to a single sequence.

Tip: If your sequence isn't sending when you think it should, first check to make sure that sequence actually has subscribers. If it doesn't, make sure your forms are connected to a sequence.

3. Segments are like lists, but more flexible and powerful.

You might be thinking: "so how do I create a list?"

Quite simply, you don't. You create a segment instead. If you've used any of these legacy email providers you found that lists are horribly inflexible, and if you ever try to send the same email to multiple lists some people will get duplicate emails.

Segments are ConvertKit's answer to that. Instead of creating an inflexible list as the first step, you get to create fluid segments at any step of the process. You can also change the parameters of a segment anytime you want.

Tip: Create an "all subscribers" segment by selecting all your forms, sequences, and tags. Then when you want to send a broadcast to everyone you can do that by selecting one thing.

Now let's look at a standard use case for segments.

On NathanBarry.com I write about both design and marketing. Sometimes I send content to everyone, but more often I want to send to people who are interested in one or the other.

A simplified version of my account looks like this:

  • Forms
    • Newsletter
    • Mastering Product Launches
    • Designing Web Apps sample chapter
    • Authority Prelaunch List
    • A Brief Guide to Selling Digital Products
    • Designing with CSS3
  • Tags
    • Purchase: Designing Web Applications
    • Purchase: The App Design Handbook
    • Purchase: Authority

About half of these are design related and about half are marketing related. Instead of choosing all the forms and tags each time I just organize them into two segments:

  • Segment: Design
    • Form: Designing Web Apps sample chapter
    • Form: Designing with CSS3
    • Tag: Purchase: Designing Web Applications
    • Tag: Purchase: The App Design Handbook
  • Segment: Marketing
    • Form: Newsletter
    • Form: Mastering Product Launches
    • Form: Authority Prelaunch List
    • Form: A Brief Guide to Selling Digital Products
    • Tag: Purchase: Authority

Out of my total subscribers (let's say 20,000) I might have 12,000 on the marketing segment and 10,000 on the design segment. Obviously these add up to more than 20,000, which means that someone can opt-in to multiple things and appear in multiple segments. Which is what we want.

In this case someone who buys my book Authority and downloads the sample chapter of Designing Web Applications would be in both the marketing segment and the design segment. Which is perfect because they've expressed interest in both topics through their activity.

Tip: Segments auto de-duplicate so you'll still never send to the same person twice. If someone had opted-in to a few things that make up a segment they will still only appear once in the segment. Also if you were to send a broadcast to two segments at the same time then those will de-duplicate against each other as well and just send to the unique subscribers. 

4. Import subscribers into tags

When switching to ConvertKit from another platform you should import your subscribers into tags. Each list in your old tool should become a tag in ConvertKit. If you are using Groups in MailChimp or something like it to track more data about your subscribers each one of those that's important should become a tag as well.

If the tag is something that I don't plan to add subscribers to anymore than I'll preface it with "Import: " so that all my import tags are grouped together.

5. Use tags to track purchases

The next thing you'll want to track is when subscribers purchase your product. I like to create a tag called "Purchase: Product Name" for each product. Then Gumroad, Shopify, Teachable, or whatever other ecommerce provider you are using can add customers to that tag once they make a purchase through an automation.

Don't forget to include these purchase tags in your newsletter or all subscribers segments.

6. Exclude subscribers from a sequence

A common use for sequences is to pitch a book or product to your subscribers. So you want to make sure that as soon as someone purchases, they don't get any more pitch emails. The best way to do that is to use the exclude feature on the sequence settings page.

Just select one of your product purchase tags to exclude and the moment the subscriber receives that tag they won't get any more emails from that sequence.

Tip: This means that you don't need to create an automation rule to unsubscribe purchasers from a form or sequence. Instead just add a tag with an automation and then exclude that tag from the sequence.

Segmenting Quick tips

  1. Don't create a tag called "Newsletter" (as an example). Instead use segments to group all the appropriate forms, tags, and sequences into a single segment for your newsletter.
  2. To run multiple sites through a single ConvertKit account just create a segment for each site. Then group your forms, tags, and sequences into those segments accordingly. You can also customize the from name and email on each form, sequence, and broadcast to match the settings of that site.
  3. Avoid creating a ton of automation rules that subscribe and unsubscribe people from different forms, tags, and sequences. If what you are trying to accomplish is just grouping subscribers then it is probably better accomplished with a segment.

Like with most powerful tools, there are several different ways to accomplish the same thing in ConvertKit. Hopefully this article helps you find the best setup for your audience.

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